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Would Hampton-to-the-CAA Signal the End of the MEAC?
Relocation rumors continue to surround the elite programs in Division I HBCU athletics, with today’s installment focused on Hampton University and a possible defection to the CAA.
If the change is to come for Hampton, the move makes a lot of sense. The Pirates have been championship contenders in the MEAC since elevating to Division I in the early 90′s, and would enjoy a great recruiting advantage over a third of their potential CAA counterparts – Delaware, Towson, William & Mary and UNC-Wilmington.
More money, more competitive balance, more exposure. Is it go time for Hampton? And more importantly, is it the beginning of the end of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference?
The business of higher education demands that college and universities rely on sports to enhance institutional marketing and branding. In the best of circumstances, sports can generate revenues for expansion while increasing applications, alumni engagement and regional exposure. Few HBCU athletic programs can break even, and those that do are often punished for the inadequacy of their counterparts in post-season opportunities and in national media coverage.
In the MEAC, Hampton and Norfolk State are the only legitimate perennial contenders in both football and basketball. In football, they are joined by South Carolina State, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M. In basketball, Morgan State and Coppin State add to the mix.
But in each sport, the lower tier programs are the RPI-strangling, guaranteed-game-bingeing schools that make the strongest case for the best HBCU teams being left out of national discussions for NCAA FCS Playoffs or March Madness. Those schools satisfied with fielding teams and attracting a decent homecoming crowd do a disservice to the better programs, because the claim from outsiders remains the same year after year.
“Who have you played?”
If Hampton secures an invite to the CAA, it would likely be accompanied by similar defections from Norfolk State, South Carolina State, FAMU and potentially, Delaware State. The CAA, SoCon and Big South await with better TV deals, respectable RPI in college football and basketball, and the money that comes with both. For those who would argue on the side of tradition and cultural pride, some would argue that the sooner defection happens, the quicker these schools can realize their best progress and athletic expansion.
Something the MEAC and most of its membership have stalled upon for the better part of the last 20 years.